Monday, 8 June 2015

Fiction Reads: Delhi:A Novel by Khushwant Singh


In Khushwant Singh's inimitable style of writing, Delhi:A Novel is probably the most impressive of his works in fiction.On its wide canvas he spreads lavish, bright-coloured strokes of a 600-year chronology of rulers, conquests, bloodbaths, poets, ravishment, monuments, greed, perversions and the late writer's favourite diversion - oodles of sex; erotic passages threaten to peg down the literary impact.

Two strands of narratives govern the tale, one of a 56 year-old narrator (clear sketch of the writer himself) in 'present day' Delhi (Culminating in year 1984), his eunuch lover, sexual adventures and irreverence (including a treatise on farting!). The other part, interspersed as separate chapters, has striking fictional accounts from the lives of Khwaja Nizamuddin, Aurangzeb, Nadir Shah, Meer Taqi Meer, Bahadur Shah Zafar, the city's architects, partition refugees and other denizens who were part of Delhi's making, unmaking. Singh uses his journalistic knowledge and vivid imagination to best effect here. As mentioned in the author's note,"History provided me with the skeleton. I covered it with flesh and injected blood and a lot of seminal fluid into it." Some accounts are remarkable in lending defiant voices to those generally regarded in history as antagonists or villains.

Singh's own bitter-syrupy relation with the city is revealed, with a stark, hostile mockery of its state. Much is salvaged through humour. The writer's mastery shines in detailed, disciplined and arresting prose. When he cuts down the distractions and goes deep into the tale, which is often, there are few novels as straight-forward and readable as this one.


(Article by Snehith Kumbla)    

Khushwant Singh (1915 - 2014)

Friday, 27 February 2015

Poetry Reads: Romance by WJ Turner


WJ Turner (1889-1946) grew up in Melbourne, he later moved to London where his first collection, The Hunter and other Poems (1916) was published. The book begins with his most famous and enduring work - Romance.

The poem left me blank on first reading it in my preteens. Yet an image rose like a halo back then, conveying a rush that went beyond words. It emanates of that feeling, where a poem writes itself down, rather than a poet consciously composing it.

Romance, be deceived not, dear Romeos and Juliets, talks of travel, childhood, daydreaming and three scenic volcanoes. To quote the WordWeb online dictionary, apart from the apparent meaning:

Romance

(Noun)

2. An exciting and mysterious quality (as of a heroic time or adventure)


As the verse reveals, WJ Turner had this constant daydream or vision when he was 13, doing his school-home-school routine. He had already lost his father and younger brother, as is mentioned in the poem. Prominent in these dreams, as clear as day were Chimborazo and Cotopaxi, Ecuadorian volcanoes. The former, at the time of writing, is inactive and the latter, a potentially active one. The third volcano, Popocatapetl, is located in Mexico and presently active.

Either the poet had visited these places or heard vivid descriptions of them, there is no definitive proof on either aspect. But whatever unforgettable and soul-stealing it conveyed to Turner, his verse has passed it on, for posterity.


Romance 
by WJ Turner

When I was but thirteen or so
I went into a golden land,
Chimborazo, Cotopaxi
Took me by the hand.

My father died, my brother too,
They passed like fleeting dreams,
I stood where Popocatapetl
In the sunlight gleams.

I dimly heard the master's voice
And boys far-off at play,
Chimborazo, Cotopaxi
Had stolen me away.

I walked in a great golden dream
To and fro from school--
Shining Popocatapetl
The dusty streets did rule.

I walked home with a gold dark boy,
And never a word I'd say,
Chimborazo, Cotopaxi
Had taken my speech away:

I gazed entranced upon his face
Fairer than any flower--
O shining Popocatapetl
It was thy magic hour:

The houses, people, traffic seemed
Thin fading dreams by day,
Chimborazo, Cotopaxi
They had stolen my soul away!

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(Article by Snehith Kumbla